Black Women’s History Month Resources: Part 3

In 2014, the state of Georgia and the city of Atlanta declared April as Black Women’s History Month. Pratt Library staff have highlighted related texts in the Humanities Department, Fine Arts and Music Department, and African American Department. Please enjoy the major contributions black women have made to religion, theatre, poetry, writing, political thought, activism, and art. Check out the first and second post for more suggested reading.

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Black Feminism

Included here are works by seminal scholars that consider black women’s historical contributions to the feminist movement. Several texts reflect on intersectionality- the theory that race, class, gender, and other social categorization creates overlapping identities that shape black women’s experiences in ways often very different from white women.  

BIOGRAPHY/AUTOBIOGRAPHY

Highlighted here are works by and about influential but lesser known black women, including early suffragists, Civil Rights leaders, Black Panthers, and contemporary cultural critics.

ESSAYS

Additional anthologies, essays, and speeches reflecting on race, gender, feminism, and popular culture.

Checking out one of the resources? Share it on social media with #atthepratt.

Black Women’s History Month Resources: Part 2

In 2014, the state of Georgia and the city of Atlanta declared April as Black Women’s History Month. Pratt Library staff have highlighted related texts in the Humanities Department, Fine Arts and Music Department, and African American Department. Please enjoy the major contributions black women have made to religion, theatre, poetry, writing, political thought, activism, and art. Check back for one more post this month and check out the first post here.

Click the cover to reserve your copy now.

Music, Theatre, and Film

Featured here are some texts by and about foundational black women musicians, film directors, and playwrights. Household names in the American music pantheon such as Aretha Franklin and Ella Fitzgerald share the list with lesser known legends such as Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Lizzie Douglas (aka Memphis Minnie). Peers in terms of talent, these women have received varying degrees of recognition as they persevered in a male dominated industry.

  

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Experience the Power of Poetry

by Mary Dzwonchyk, Information Services Librarian

Words have power. Throughout history, carefully crafted manifestos have influenced policy, swayed popular opinion, shifted social tides, and given birth to revolutions. A single well-turned phrase can capture the hearts of the world or turn a nation against its leader. Poetry is nothing more or less than words, words precisely chosen and artfully arranged to form linguistic music. The words of a well-crafted poem are needles that pierce the superficial skin of our self-made differences to touch the universal human heart that beats below.

Poetry has power, and that power has long been harnessed by activists and revolutionaries as a tool for raising awareness, inciting action, and lending support to the oppressed. Poets like Hayan Charara, Emmy Perez, and Nikki Giovanni write about their experiences with discrimination and injustice in order to raise awareness for societal problems, shaking awake complacent readers. “My phone is tapped my mail is opened,” Giovanni writes in “My Poem.” “[but] if they take my life it won’t stop the revolution.”

Some poets go further, issuing calls to action. “These walls oppression builds/Will have to go!” Langston Hughes declares in his poem, “I look at the world.” “Let us hurry, comrades/The road to find.” In “Let America Be America Again,” Hughes details the plight of the “poor white, fooled and pushed apart;” “the Negro bearing slavery’s scars;” and “the red man driven from the land.” He cries out to the downtrodden that “We must take back our land again, America!”

Other poets, like Gwendolyn Brooks and Diane Di Prima, offer encouragement, support, or practical advice to those who share the ongoing struggle against oppression. In her poem “Speech to the Young,” Brooks reassures those fighting toward progress that they “will be right./For that is the hard home-run. Live not for battles won…Live in the along.” Di Prima doles out survival tips in her poem “Revolutionary Letter #3,” advising those who find themselves in the midst of an uprising to “store water…they turned off the water/in the 4th ward for a whole day during the Newark riots.”

Some, like Denise Levertov, use poetry to explore ways to end oppression and create peace. In her poem “Making Peace,” Levertov dissects society as if it were itself a poem, applying literary vocabulary to her description of our world and the changes it must make in order for peace to flourish. “Peace, like a poem,” she writes, “can’t be known except/in the words of its making/grammar of justice/syntax of mutual aid.”

While literary activism harnesses the power of poetry on a national or even international level, poetry’s power can resonate on the individual level as well. For someone struggling with mental illness, for instance, there is catharsis to be found in articulating that struggle through poetry. By naming a thing – by describing it, making it tangible through language – you contain the thing, you pin it down, you own it. Poets like Sabrina Benaim, Bharath Divakar, and Yashi Brown draw on their personal struggles with depression, bipolar disorder, OCD and other conditions in crafting their poetry, and in so doing empower themselves to cope with and overcome those struggles. In her spoken-word piece “Explaining my depression to my mother,” Sabrina Benaim explains how “depression always drags me back to my bed/Until my bones are the forgotten fossils of a skeleton sunken city.”

The value of expressing one’s pain is not just found in the poet’s own empowerment at sharing their troubles with readers. Naming and describing mental illness through poetry helps to wear down the longstanding stigma surrounding mental illness. Poets who highlight ignored or misunderstood conditions lend validation and solidarity to readers with those conditions.

If you want to experience the power of poetry firsthand, you can find collected works by these and other poets in the Pratt’s collections. Click on the title below to reserve your copy and get you started. Happy #NationalPoetryMonth!

Reading a poetry book you checked out from the library? Share on social media with #atthepratt.

Audubon’s Wildlife Gardening Workshop

Spring has sprung and it’s time to start thinking about your outdoor space again. The type of garden you create will invite different birds and insects to your space. The library has books to assist your outdoor beautification, or you can attend a library program to inspire your gardening adventures.

We had a full house for Audubon’s Wildlife Gardening Workshop at the Roland Park Branch. Participants explored strategies for creating gardens that feed birds and butterflies in Baltimore spaces, large and small. “We discussed specific plants that offer seeds, berries, nectar, and insects to Baltimore birds,” said presenter Susie Creamer.

Spring workshops also took place at the Patterson Park Branch and Canton Branch. One more “advanced” gardeners’ workshop awaits you at the Hamilton Branch on April 12 at 5:30pm. Please register in advance: baltimore@audubon.org. More info here.

Black Women’s History Month Resources: Part 1

In 2014, the state of Georgia and the city of Atlanta declared April as Black Women’s History Month. Pratt Library staff have highlighted related texts in the Humanities Department, Fine Arts and Music Department, and African American Department. Please enjoy the major contributions black women have made to religion, theatre, poetry, writing, political thought, activism, and art.  Check back for two more posts this month.

Click the cover to reserve your copy now.

Womanist Theology

Womanist theology is the reconceptualizing of Christian theology by black women for black women. It came into being as a reaction to social realities that marginalized black women on several fronts. The feminist movement had been largely in the hands of white female leadership and was not inclusive of the experiences of black women while black theology had been a historically male-dominated discipline. It is different from black feminism, seeking to depart from any link to mainstream feminism and to be self-defined.

 

Poetry & Writing

Included here is literary criticism by award-winning author Toni Morrison, “Playing in the Dark”, in which she brings to light the depths of racism in the Western literary canon and how she meticulously writes to create a black literary canon. Morgan Parker’s “There Are More Beautiful Things Than Beyonce” and Alexis Pauline Gumb’s “Spill: Scenes of Black Feminist Fugitivity” are poetry written in celebration and in honor of the resiliency of black women. Claudia Rankine’s “Citizen” is poetry that addresses the struggles that result from trying to survive in a country that mistreats its black citizens still today.

GRAPHIC NOVELS

Explore the work of Jackie Ormes and other great black women comic book or graphic novelists as well as heroes. Diversity in comics led to a wave of new creators who represent a different spectrum of society.

Checking out one of the resources? Share it on social with #atthepratt.